It is part of the 21st century deconstruction, that it is not enough to oppose the truth, but it is necessary to undermine even the possibility of holding the truth.
In physics it is the multiverse.
In psychology it is the denial of free will or consciousness.
In biology it is denial of teleology, the necessity of naturalism.
In ethics it is not “situational” anymore; it is the desire to see all ethics as “oppressive”.
Consider the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s article on fine-tuning. I tried reading it, and it echoes the same refrain, the same death of philosophy. You can’t do philosophy unless you love the truth. If truth is somehow a product of method, somehow a product of the latest fad in argumentation, then all hope is lost.
Fine tuning is a physicist’s internal debate: Brandon Carter’s definition, John Barrow/Frank Tipler’s “weak anthropic principle”, Victor Stenger’s critique, and Luke Barne’s book are all written by physicists. None of them, I would argue, understand Bayes Theorem and its applicability to fine tuning. Nor did the Stanford article engage them on physics, simply stating that some of them like multiverses/naturalness/inflation and some do not.
Already I see this as a problem. We have become so specialized, that no one feels competent to critique another’s field—despite the glaring fact that m/n/i are not physical theories but metaphysical theories. If a philosopher can’t recognize when physicists are doing metaphysics, then he is failing his training, and might as well let Larry Krauss exterminate them all!
To my delight, the Stanford article does jump into Bayes Theorem, so unlike the physicists, the author has learned something of logic. But to my dismay he totally misses the point of Bayes Theorem. This is a subtle enough point that I will need to write another book on this topic, but the point of probability is not winning card games, nor solving QM problems. The point of probability is to convince us, to affect belief, to subjectively change our conscious behavior. Edwin Jaynes, the physicist who reintroduced the world to Bayes Theorem, kept saying that probability measures the level of our ignorance.
Now pause, and ask yourself—is ignorance an objective property? Can I say confidently, I am 50% ignorant of the results of a test? Or, I’ll trade my ignorance for yours? Rather, is not ignorance a consciousness property, a self-awareness property, a property only humans can understand?
For example, Roy Spencer (a UAH meteorologist who has a blog talking about global warming), said that hurricanes are unpredictable things. He gave the example of a man struck by lightning while golfing, and on his ambulance ride to the hospital, lightning struck the vehicle again, finishing him off. I reply, who, upon hearing that story, doesn’t say “Whoa, what did the man do to deserve that?” Improbable events are events that change our perspective, that speak to our self-consciousness, that appeal to our subjective understanding. The list of sermon illustrations that make this point is endless–I will cite only one. One summer I came within seconds of drowning in a riptide in the Gulf of Mexico–five others died that day, but when 3 rollers failed to materialize, my son was able to dash into the surf and pull me to safety. A few weeks later, I was on the Interstate at 70mph when my driver lost control and skidded over the median strip making a head-on collision with a Suburban. I stepped out of the Camry without a scratch. Then a few weeks after that on Colorado route 84 descending from the top of 12,000 ft Independence Pass approaching a switchback my brakes caught fire and faded away. A few weeks later I asked my wife, “Do you think God is trying to tell me something?”
Probabilities are difficult for scientists (look at the number of interpretations of QM), and are difficult for analytic philosophers (cf this Stanford article), precisely because they are subjective. Everything in Enlightenment objectivity rebels against the thought that “is” might lead to “ought”, that facts produce ethics, that observation leads to teleology. The rebellion against ID is the same rebellion against natural theology, against fine tuning, against the existence of a personal (self-conscious, subjective) Creator. The subjective is bad, is unreliable, is to be avoided at all costs.
Look over the list of objections in this Stanford article on fine-tuning.” They all fall into the category of “So what?”. Only one chance in 10^10^150 that this universe is an accident? So what. Only one chance in 10^40000 that life can accidentally form? So what, I’m here, so impersonal miracles which have nothing to do with God can happen. Other philosophers show that this is a ridiculous argument? So what, there’s no accounting for taste.
The peculiar thing is that such people are very sensitive to the slightest 0.05 change in their investments and retirements, but can’t be bothered with calculating the chances for their eternal destiny. They do understand numbers, they simply refuse to let numbers speak to their conscience. They have performed a frontal lobotomy on the ethical center of their brain, they have stuffed cotton in the ears of their conscience, they have sold their soul for a mess of pottage, and reply like the character in “O brother, where art thou”, “well, I wasn’t using it anyway.” Professing to be wise, they have adopted the logic of fools.
We will neither regain the high ground of philosophy nor the fertile results of physics until we can once again find teleology in the cosmos, once again wed physics to metaphysics, once again find “ought” in “is.”
See also: Post-modern physics: String theory gets over the need for evidence
Cosmic inflation theory loses hangups about the scientific method
The multiverse is science’s assisted suicide
What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?